Blindfold Family Feud

It’s not actually called Family Feud like the TV Game show; instead, it’s entitled Blindfold Feud.

Family Feud game board showing joint answer

TV Game shows are the most popular category of games that I’ve built.  Spin and Solve, inspired by Wheel of Fortune, has almost as many players as Blindfold Bowling or Blindfold Racer, the two most popular games.

With Family Feud, you must come up with answers to questions that are not necessarily correct, but are popular.  In a recent Family Feud episode, the host put up the question “What is something that people like to pass around”, and the most popular answer was “a joint”.  Other answers included a lighter, sickness, thanksgiving dinner and yard tools.  You win points based on how popular your answer was.

Typing the most popular answer in Blindfold Feud couldn’t work, because there are so many different ways to express the same thing (“a joint”, “marijuana”, “weed”), and it would be very difficult for the game to determine if your answer is the same as the popular answer.

Instead, I created several game variants.  The ranking game, shows you a list of answers, and you must pick the most popular answer; you win points based on the answer’s popularity.  If 70% of the people picked “joint”, you would win 70 points.  Your turn continues until you get a wrong answer, and then your computer opponent goes.

The testers suggested adding guessing game, where you guess the answer after being told the first letter.

If the question is “Name Something A Parent Reminds Kid Use At Summer Camp”, the popular answers are Toothbrush, Sunscreen, and Soap.  The game reads you the question, tells you there are 3 answers, and tells you that one answer that begins with the letter “T”, and the other two answers begin with the letter “S”.  When you type the letters “T”, “O”, and “O”, you get credit for the “Toothpaste” answer, and win points.

I purchased a list of questions and answers, added a computer opponent whose skill you can vary, and released the game as Blindfold Feud.  You can download it here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-feud/id1200250347?mt=8

Blindfold Games: Little things matter

I receive many emails thanking me for the games, many expressing surprise about how many games there are, and telling me how much fun they have playing the games.

suggestion box

Kimberly R. wrote to me about the Euchre card game,  saying “I love, love, love this game. It has helped me grow more confident when playing with others in person around the card table.   I’d like to thank you for making this and many more games so myself and others who are blind can have games to play on our phones.

I don’t think it’s simply that the games exist and are accessible that makes the games popular.   It’s that the testers, who are all visually impaired, as well as the fans, tell me how game should be enhanced, and I listen.

For example, in Blindfold Pinball, the testers told me to create  a “Learn Bumper Sounds” screen.  Pinball has over many different sound packs, where each sound pack is a different pinball machine, such as a wild-west pack, an animal pack, and  a body pack (including burps and farts).  The “Learn Bumper Sound” screen tells you which sound corresponds to which bumper, and its point score, as the pinball bounces around the pinball machine.  Knowing the sounds helps you know when to hit the flipper, so the ball is shot as high as possible to score more points.

In Blindfold Invaders, testers suggested that I create a “Learn Sounds” screen so people can identify each of the 14 sounds they will hear during the game.  Even though the sounds are described in the user guide, the testers told me that having a menu of the sounds, such as “Incoming missile from invader”, or “invaders moving left” or “right edge warning” would make the game easier to understand.

Blindfold Barnyard initially told you where the animals are situated using compass directions, such as “The closest pig is to the northeast”.   In the game, to get to the pig, you  slide your finger to the upper left.  The testers said I should add clock directions as an alternative, since many visually impaired people use clock directions instead of compass directions.  In this mode, the game now says “The closest pig is at 2 o’clock”.

It’s these little things that make a difference between a good game and a great game, and I really appreciate the feedback, so I can continue to improve the games.

Blindfold Travel Cards

Some of you may have played the game “Mille Bornes” when you were growing up.  The game was created in 1954 by Edmond Dujardin, and was quite similar to the earlier American automotive card game Touring.   Parker Brothers acquired the American license in 1965, was eventually acquired by Hasbro.  It was one of the most popular games in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and is still sold today.

mille bornes french cards

In Mille Bornes, you are in a road race based on playing the cards in your hand. The first player to complete 700 miles wins.  There are hazard, remedy, safety, and distance cards. Each hazard is corrected by a corresponding remedy, and is actually prevented from happening in the first place by a corresponding safety.  The 700 miles is reached by playing distance cards.

I received many requests to create a Blindfold variant of this game, and published Blindfold Road Trip about 18 months ago.  You can play against one to three computer opponents, and as you play each card, you hear sound effects for that card: the “200 mile” card sounds like a car speeding by, the “flat tire” card sounds like a tire leaking air, the “go” card sounds like an engine starting and the “repair” card is reminiscent of an automobile body shop.

Blindfold Road Trip was hit, and people asked for more variants of the game, using airplanes, space ships or boats.  The trick to building other versions of the game was to not break the overall game logic, and still allow the computer opponents to play intelligently.  And I needed to do this without rewriting the game for each type of transportation.

First, I renamed the game to Blindfold Travel Cards.

The basic automobile game has 7 distance cards: 25, 50, 75, 100 and 200 miles.  Looking at this another way, if the slowest distance card is the value “X”, the distance cards have values: X, 2X, 3X, 4X and 8X.  Then there are 4 hazards, 4 repairs for those hazards, and 4 super cards to protect you from the hazards.

I modified the automobile game to create a sailing game using the above principles.  The slowest sailing speed is 2 knots.  Hence, the distance cards are: 2, 4, 6, 8 and 16 knots.  I created 4 hazards, such as a ripped sail or broken rudder, repairs for each, and super cards.  I bought some cool sound effects, and launched the game: you can play it with either an automobile or a sailboat.

Next, I created the train game.  The slowest train speed is 10 kilometers per hour, so the distance cards are 10, 20, 30, 40 and 80 kilometers.  The hazards include broken air brakes and out of coal, with repairs and super cards for each.  Mix-in some sound effects, create an instruction guide, and the train game was ready.

You can download Blindfold Travel Cards here:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/blindfold-travel-cards/id1080225770?mt=8

Blindfold Game Rejected by Apple. Again.

It’s rather funny when I submit a game to the Apple App Store, and have it rejected.  Keep in mind that I’ve built about 70 games, so I know how to avoid doing things that would cause a rejection.

font-sizes

Usually the reason for rejection is that the screen shots don’t accurately reflect the game.  Games on the App Store can have up to 5 screen shots for someone to get a feeling on how the game works, and Apple insists the screen shots must be sufficiently informative and accurate.

I tried explaining to Apple that about 90% of the people who download Blindfold Games are blind, and screen shots are meaningless.  Apple replies “You need screen shots so that other people know what the app will do, otherwise they won’t get the game”.  I replied, “Yes, that’s the point.  Sighted people are not interested in audio games.  Why should I bother?”  Apple replies “Because if you don’t, we’ll reject your app.” (Apple phrased it more pleasantly than that, but that was their point).

In the latest round, they rejected Blindfold Word Search, because they didn’t like the screen layout.  Even though it’s an audio game, I still show the word search grid, up to 20 rows by 20 columns, on the screen, using a font size of about 8.  Apple said the grid was not properly centered, and the font was too small; that violates Apple’s rule of good screen layout.  I countered with that doesn’t matter – it’s an audio game, and I can just keep the screen dark.   Apple said that too violates the screen layout rule.

I said I can make the font bigger, but then half of the columns won’t fit on the screen.  Apple said that’s OK, people can scroll back and forth.  I said that blind people navigate in the word search grid by swiping left, right, up and down, and that adding scrolling would just make the game confusing, and since they don’t see the screen, how would they know when to scroll the screen.

Apple said the app, as it stands now, may work for blind people, but it doesn’t match Apple’s requirements for everyone else, so sighted people will think the font is too small to see; you need to raise the font size, allow for scrolling.

We went back and forth like this for 34 minutes.  I timed it.  I have a fix that can work, but it’s a complete waste of time and effort.

Latest update: I made the changes last night, and Apple approved the app today.  Details on this app in the next blog.

Blindfold Games in Iowa

I was invited as a featured speaker at the ICUB – Iowa Council of the United Blind -Convention and Conference in Des Moines over the past few days.  I was supposed to fly in for the three day conference , and run several sessions, but circumstances prevented that, and I attended via Skype.

iowa department for the blind logo

ICUB is a consumer-run organization whose educational, advocacy, support, and other activities are based on the contention that blind and visually impaired people can and do fully participate in their families, communities, and jobs.

For each session, we prepared several iPads with a handful of games for people to play with, and I talked about a couple of games: how they were built, what’s unusual about the game, and how they are tested.  People played with the games for the remainder of the session.

In the first session, I demonstrated Blindfold Blackjack and Blindfold Bowling.  As usual, about 10% of the people knew and loved my games, and the rest were introduced to them for the first time.  The most common question I received was: “When I’m playing Blackjack, who is Bob and why does he always win?  I think he cheats”.

Actually, Bob is one of the four people that you play against in most of the games, and you can vary your opponent’s expertise.  I picked the four opponent names; it’s easy for you to change those names. I used two male names, and two female names; the male names are friends of mine; one of the female names is a family member, and the other female name is similar to another family member.

In the second session, I demonstrated Blindfold Sound Search and Blindfold Bird Songs, and talked about how they were built: Bird Songs was a collaboration with students of a birding class at the Hadley School for the Blind.  We also played with Blindfold Spin and Spell – a variant of Wheel of Fortune – and I described how the Braille Spin and Spell helps people practice their braille contractions.

I had more volunteers for game testing, and revealed some of the new games coming out, including Blindfold Invaders and Blindfold Clues.

The final session was focused on Blindfold Greeting Card and Blindfold Racer, and how they were created.  Blindfold Racer, the flagship game, took over 6 months to build, working with sighted students in 5th, 6th and 7th grade as a S.T.E.M. project at my daughter’s school, and Blindfold Greeting card took several weeks, and was tested for several months.

When I mentioned that thousands of people participated in the Blindfold Racer World-Wide Championship that we ran last year, many attendees requested another Championship in 2017.

You can get a full list of the Blindfold Games here: BlindfoldGames.org

 

 

Blindfold Games & Cerebral Palsy

Last week, I received an email from Jim H. telling me how much he enjoyed some of my games and that he thought the Talking Information Center interview was very cool.

cerebral palsy awareness logo

He went on to say that he has mild cerebral palsy, and plays Blindfold Pinball on a slow level, and really likes that game.  He said there aren’t that many games available on the App Store that can be slowed down to accommodate coordination limitations.

Last week, he told me that now Blindfold Air Hockey is his favorite game – it too can be adjusted for player speed.  He thought there might be other people with Cerebral Palsy that would enjoy the games, and we talked about posting some inquires on related Facebook groups

I asked to join one such group, and was approved the next day, and posted the inquiry.  Within a few hours, I had about a dozen likes, and two people commented.  If you know of people who need games that can be slowed down as an accommodation, please contact me.  I will start ramping up the effort to join many of the Cerebral Palsy Facebook groups, similar to what I do with several Facebook Blind and Low Vision groups.  We post each blog to about 20 Facebook groups.

Talking Information Center interviews Blindfold Games

The Talking Information Center is a non-profit reading service that broadcasts newspapers,magazines, books, and special consumer information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to visually impaired and print impaired listeners.

poplogo

Their volunteers read selections from the Boston Globe, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Boston Herald, the Washington Post and the New York times, and have special shows including Science Hour, Spanish News, Pets, Diabetes Update, Book Hour, Business, and local Massachusetts community news.

John Shea of the Talking Information Center interviewed me about 2 years ago, and I met him again was at a recent event, and he invited me back to the show entitled Mission Possible.

We talked about how I got started with these games, how the games are built, and what new games are coming.

You can listen here:

You can visit their website here:   http://ticnetwork.org

Blindfold Greeting Card: Getting it wrong

Prior to creating Blindfold Greeting Card, I discussed the app with lots of visually impaired people, and they all thought it was a great idea.

greeting card

The app lets you send an audio e-card to someone else, via email, text message, Facebook, twitter, etc.  First you select one sound effect out of 500 audio clips, varying from 5 to 30 seconds long, and then you record yourself speaking a greeting.  The app combines both audio clips, and adds an 8 second promotion for Blindfold Greeting Card, and stores it at a website.

To send your e-card via text, just push the text message button, and enter your friend’s phone number, and off it goes.  When your friend gets the text message, she taps the weblink in the message, and hears your card.

It’s great for a blind person to send to a sighted person, so the sighted person can appreciate the card in the same medium that it was created it in.  It’s far better than sending an video e-card with a description that says “cute puppy under a tree”.  Likewise, sighted friends and relatives can send a card to a visually impaired person in a format that he can fully enjoy.

So here’s where I got it wrong.

  1. Most of the people who got this app used the pre-recorded sample messages instead of recording one themselves. I thought recording yourself would be great; I learned its a nice feature, but not a requirement.
  2. The app charges about 10 cents per card you send.  If you send the same card to 5 people, that’s about 50 cents.  What people did was create one card, send it to themselves for 10 cents, and then forward it to their friends at no additional cost.
  3. The audio e-card has the following message at the end of their audio clip: “Brought to you by Blindfold Games.  Visit us at blindfoldgames.org”.  People hated that promotional message.
  4. The price is $1.00 for 10 cards, $5 for 60 cards and $10 for 125 cards.  Almost all games have a price for unlimited usage, and people wanted an unlimited usage price for Blindfold Greeting Card.  I didn’t do this since there are costs associated with storing each audio card at a website.

I had a conversation with one of the fans of Blindfold Greeting Card, and he suggested I approach the app differently, and I’m working on those changes:

  1. Create an unlimited usage price.  Fortunately, the storage costs have gone done since the app was introduced last year, and that’s now economically feasible.
  2. Offer the ability to remove the promotional message as an purchasable upgrade.
  3. Have more prerecorded messages in addition to “Happy Birthday”.
  4. Let people be able to type in a message, and have the app speak it as part of the greeting.  This would be an alternative to recording your own voice.

We hope to get this new version out within a month.

Blindfold Boggling

Over the past few years, I’ve had a several requests for the word game Boggle and Scrabble.  It wasn’t clear to me how to do a good Scrabble game where you play against the computer, since the computer has access to a dictionary, and that seems like an unfair advantage.

4 by 4 board of letter cubes

Boggle, on the other hand, appeared more realistic, and there are many variants of Boggle so that a sightly different game could be created without violating the Boggle copyright.

Our version is called Blindfold Biggle.

If you are unfamiliar with Boggle, it’s a set of cubes arrange in a 4 by 4 pattern.  Each cube has 6 letters on it (one letter per side), and you spin all the cubes, so that you get a random pattern of letters.  From the letters, you must form words that are at least 3 letters long.  For example, a Boggle board could have the following letter combination:

M A V W

U S E A

F  I R L

E O S H

You can form a word by connecting adjacent letters, above, below, left, right, or diagonal, and you cannot use a letter cube twice in the same word.  For example, USE and SEA can be created on the second line, FUSE can be created from the first letter of the third line, and the first three letters of the second line, and SUM can be created by the 2nd and 1st letter of the second line, and the first letter of the first line, and SIR by the third letter of the fourth one, and the 2nd and 3rd letter of the third line.

The first step in building Boggle was to create an algorithm to determine all of the valid words.  I found several master’s thesis by people solving this problem; the easiest solution for a computer is to take all of the 3 letters words in its dictionary, and then attempt to find them in the puzzle, then take all of the 4 letter words, and so on.  It’s not how a person would solve the puzzle, but it does work, and on an iPhone, it can be done in under a second, using a dictionary of over 40,000 words.

We created a 4 by 4 variant of Boggle, with some changes from the original game, and called it Word Flick.  We did a 5 by 5 variant as well, a 6 by 6 variant, and a timed game for each of the variants.  To win the game, you try to get as many words as you can; the longer the word, the more points you score.

To download this game:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-word-biggle/id1182837304?mt=8

 

Blindfold Games March Update

I often get asked for a list of games that we’ve built.  Here’s the current list, from the newest to the oldest.

Click on the game to go directly to the iTunes download page.  All games are designed for rapid audio play and have been built with the help of dozens of visually impaired gamers

Blindfold Feud – Inspired by Family Feud.

Blindfold Road Trip– Be the first player to drive 1000 miles in this card game similar to 1000 miles or Miles Bornes.  Now with cars, sailboats and trains.

Blindfold Words From Words – How many words can you create from one word?

Blindfold Oppoly – Inspired by Monopoly.

Blindfold Euchre – Trick-taking card game, much easier than spades.

Blindfold Fireworks – Tap and swipe to conduct your own audio fireworks show.

Blindfold Seven Words – Similar to seven little words.

Blindfold Word Biggle – Inspired by Boggle – Find words in a 5 by 5 grid of letters.

Blindfold Trivia Match – Just like Jeopardy

Blindfold Snakes and Puzzles – Snakes and Ladders but with trivia or arithmetic puzzles

Blindfold Soccer Kick – Soccer – European Football – Kicking and Blocking.

Blindfold Cat and Mouse – Just like Skipbo.  A two player card game similar to  Solitaire, but much easier.

Blindfold Sound Search – More Sound Packs added.  Matching game using Common Animals, Asian Animals, National Anthems, Musical Instruments and Everyday Sounds.

Blindfold Color Crush – Many more gem packs added: A cross between Bejeweled and Candy Crush.

Blindfold Barnyard – New barnyards added: Move your animals from the barnyard to the fence to the barn.  It’s addicting!

Braille Spin and Solve – Practice your braille contractions. Inspired by Wheel of Fortune, spin to guess a letter or a contraction in the phrase and win.

Blindfold Greeting Card – Create and send your own audio cards to friends and family.

Blindfold RS Games – 21 different multi-player games, played by thousands of people on Windows and Mac, are now available on the iPhone and iPad.

Blindfold Sound Search – Matching game using Common Animals, Asian Animals, National Anthems, Musical Instruments and Everyday Sounds.

Blindfold Basketball – Grab the ball and start shooting.  Great sound effects!

Blindfold Bird Songs – Find that Bird and Match that bird – two great games for learning bird songs.

Blindfold Checkers – Play checkers with easy, medium or expert opponents.

Phrase Madness – Famous as a windows game, now on the iPhone and iPad.  Match the phrases and laugh your socks off.

Blindfold Pinball – Play pinball on diffferent pinball machines.

Blindfold Pool – Play pool by hitting your cue ball into the other balls, and landing them in the pockets.  Hours and hours of fun.

Blindfold Spin and Solve – Inspired by Wheel of Fortune, spin to guess a letter in the phrase and win.

Blindfold Shuffleboard  – Slide your discs into the scoring area, and push your opponents discs out of the way.

Blindfold Bingo – Play bingo with lots of patterns. Win coins. Record yourself saying Bingo and share it.

Blindfold Crazy Eights with Friends – Crazy Eights card game with with other people, via Game Center or in the same room.

Blindfold Word Games– Hangman, Word Ladder, Scramble and Word Flick.

Blindfold Horse Race– Race against other horses by walking your fingers on the screen.

Blindfold Juggle– Juggle animals on earth and other planets.

Blindfold Rummy – Gin Rummy card game – collect sets and runs of cards.

Blindfold Tile Puzzle – Tile games including 2048 and Threes, with several variations.

Blindfold Vee Ball – Just like Skee ball: Roll a ball up a ramp to land in the highest point hole.

Blindfold Craps – Dice game where you bet on the outcome of a dice roll, just like in Las Vegas.

Blindfold Air Hockey – Air Hockey – use your mallet to shoot the puck into your opponent’s goal.

Blindfold Breakout – Breakout game where you smash bricks with a ball, similar to the arcade game.

Blindfold Bowling – Ten pin bowling just like at the bowling alley.

Blindfold Roulette – Play roulette just like in Las Vegas.

Blindfold Hopper – Inspired by the old video game frogger.

Blindfold Pong – Pong game similar to the classic arcade game.

Blindfold Dominoes -Dominoes game where you play until you are out of tiles or blocked.

Blindfold Hearts – Hearts card game where you avoid collecting hearts or you can shoot the moon.

Blindfold Simon – My Simon type game where you follow patterns based on gestures and sounds.

Blindfold Spades – Spades card game where you bid and collect tricks as you win each hand.

Blindfold War – The classic war card game where you try to collect all the cards.

Blindfold Solitaire – Solitaire card games including Klondike, Spider, Free Cell, Golf and many others.

Blindfold Wildcard – An Uno type card game.

Blindfold Crazy Eights – Crazy Eights card game with several variants of play.

Blindfold Video Poker – Video Poker just like the machines in Las Vegas.

Blindfold Blackjack – Play Blackjack against the dealer.

Blindfold Sudoku – Audio Sudoku in a 9 by 9 grid, with easy, medium and hard levels.

Blindfold Sudoku Mini – Audio Sudoku in a 4 by 4 grid, lots of fun and great for people who never played Sudoku before.

Blindfold Cryptogram – Decode famous quotes and phrases in a letter substitution game

Blindfold Racer – Drive your car using your ears, not your eyes.  The original game that started all of this.